Broadcast television has, for a long time, staunchly held out against the internet revolution, instead choosing to keep its wares off the web for technical and legal reasons. The Average Joe found workarounds to these two hurdles long ago, and thus, in an absurdly simplified manner, the age of internet television was born. Lately, however, the holdouts have begun caving in, with even HBO announcing a standalone online service just this past Monday. Arguably more important than the transition of television to the internet is the creation of television for the internet; Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and RocketJump are just a handful of the better-known names of production companies developing content specifically for the internet. Among these players in the “internet television” genre is Tufts’ own Tufts University Television (TUTV), whose new show “Wave Jacked” premieres March 23.
“Wave Jacked” is the story of a motley crew brought together by a mission to restore justice to the airwaves by creating art. Jamie Dawson, played by senior Christina Moore, has always wanted her own college radio show. But just when the show is about to begin, it is stolen from her by the station manager’s girlfriend, played by junior Shannon Ludeman. It would be reasonable to assume that this is the end of the road for Dawson, but lucky for her, her housemate, Jack, is an engineer — an engineer who can build a better radio than the one at the station. Dawson and an unusual cast of writers, actors and, according to Edward Rosini, a mysterious “shroud,” proceed to put on a 1940s-style radio play every week. “Hijinks ensue,” co-director and co-writer Edward Rosini, a junior, said to summarize the result. “‘Wave Jacked’ is the touching story of creation, not only of art,” said sophomore Orlando Economos, director of photography, “but also of friendships and relationships between an ensemble cast that comes together to create something truly great on the radio.”
The show has been a long time in the making. Rosini and co-writer junior Imogen Browder first conceptualized “Wave Jacked” while filming their first webseries, “Jules and Monty” (2014), which premiered last spring. The two creators left for winter break with a vision for their new series and returned to the Hill with the first draft of their script. While TUTV was putting the finishing touches on “Jules and Monty” before uploading it to YouTube, Browder and Rosini were polishing their script with Bare Bodkin, a collective on campus that promotes the development of original student-created theater works. “They provided super good feedback,” said Rosini. “The show changed a lot — for the better,” according to Rosini, during the time when he and Browder were workshopping with Bare Bodkin.
It was at the first reading of the “Wave Jacked” script that Bare Bodkin President Kira Patterson, a senior, first encountered the character she now plays in the finished production: Shiloh Roswell, the radio show’s hyper-introverted writer. “She makes friends, something that she’s not really familiar with for the most part,” Patterson said of her character. Shiloh has an imaginary friend, “her only friend,” about whom both Patterson and Rosini were conspicuously vague — so look for this character named Alec, played by senior Drew Page, to add a special role of intrigue to the arc of the story. “There’s a love interest, and just friendship and things she hasn’t experienced,” Patterson says of her character’s plot line.
“It’s a comedy in the same way that Edgar Wright films are, where they falter between genres just because there’s so much going on, but, at the end of the day, nobody dies, there’s not a funeral and there would be a wedding if this was 400 years ago,” Rosini said in defining the project. In short, “It’s a comedy.” Patterson added, “I have a scene with sock puppets.”
For many of those onboard the project, “Wave Jacked” was their first experience working on a webseries, let alone a recorded television show. Many of the actors have histories performing on Tufts’ various stages. For Rosini, directing the series and scaling his actors’ performances to the audience’s screens was a welcome challenge. “The way that stage acting works is that it’s big,” he remarked, “so you just have to scale it back for film a little bit, which is so much easier than doing the opposite and scaling a film actor up to a stage. Some of these characters are very very very big, but Kira and Christina did a wonderful job of portraying these very realistic characters, and it was wonderful to watch.” From Rosini’s perspective, the actors all put on Emmy-worthy performances. For Patterson, the more naturalistic style required by the show “was easier to grasp than the big ‘I am acting’ thing” that she often has to do on stage.
Radio, while aurally dynamic, is a visually static medium, and for Orlando Economos, the person behind the cameras, this stillness created additional challenges. “It’s a story of audio told visually, so how do you get that to come to life on the screen?” he posited. TUTV’s director, sophomore Ben Taylor, first approached Economos about taking the lead on shooting “Wave Jacked” over the summer. “He told me about the story, and I said ‘I’m in!’ without really knowing what I was getting myself into,” Economos said.
“In terms of bringing it to life on the screen, I had to be really conscious of the structure of the shots, how the camera was moving and if the shots were keeping the story interesting,” Economos said. Economos and Rosini often collaborated on designing the show’s visual aesthetic.
“There was not a lot of direction [in the script] for what camera moves there should be, so I would come up with that. Every once in a while Ed would have a specific idea about what he wanted, so I’d work with him to see how we could make that come to life.” Economos, minoring in film studies, broke new ground for himself during the filming. “I thought I knew about 75 percent, turns out I knew maybe 30 percent going in, so there was a decent amount of experimentation on the screen. ‘Wave Jacked’ has been the highest production value project I have ever worked on,” he said. “It’s one of the things I’m proudest of.”
It would be remiss to omit the role played by WMFO, Tufts’ own radio station, in the creation of “Wave Jacked.” For one, junior Ben Stern, who is deeply involved with WMFO, plays the engineer housemate, named Jack, who builds the radio that makes Dawson’s wave-jacking show possible. Stern also helped arrange for multiple scenes to be shot in WMFO itself. “There was a lot, a lot of collaboration with WMFO,” said Rosini. “As a part of this project, we are putting out a podcast that we recorded in Studio B, the sandbox recording studio at WMFO, and which will be released through the Tufts Podcast Network.”
The army of creative minds that converged to create “Wave Jacked” is a product of the Tufts community; the show is emblematic of what is possible when student organizations and even administrative services collaborate. “We have a lot of really amazing equipment at Tufts that is totally available to students if you know where to look,” Economos said. “The equipment we have is quite nice for the level of stuff that goes on here. A lot of it is available at TUTV and the ExCollege.”
As for TUTV, work has already begun on its next project, “High Spirits,” which will be released in fall of the coming school year. The plan going forward, according to Rosini, is for TUTV to have at least two shows per academic year, with a shorter series debuting in the fall and a flagship show premiering in the spring.
Episodes of this season’s premiere, “Wave Jacked,” are billed to span 10 minutes apiece, with a new episode arriving on YouTube twice weekly, part one on Mondays and part two on Wednesdays, eschewing Netflix’s strategy of uploading the entire season of a show at once. TUTV’s viewership has spanned beyond the Tufts campus for some of TUTV’s past productions, with over 14,000 views alone for the first episode of “Jules and Monty.” The trailer for “Wave Jacked” has already garnered close to 2,000 views with a publicity campaign that is almost entirely within Tufts social media circles. That said, “Wave Jacked” is written for a broad audience — although, according to Rosini, those within the Tufts community will enjoy a few Easter eggs.
The college cycle makes it challenging to produce shows across academic years, as senior students graduate and new students arrive, so “Wave Jacked” will be a single season affair. “I think it ends at a perfect spot, and people will be both satisfied and questioning, and I think that’s exactly where you want to leave it,” says Patterson. The changeover from year to year means that there is a constant need for new material — and, Rosini says, “Imogen Browder and I are already thinking of something else.”
“Wave Jacked” will premiere on March 23, the first day after spring break.